Sunday, March 23, 2014

BOOK: Among the Mad (plus more) by Jacqueline Winspear

I guess this turned into Maisie March, as I've just completed my third Maisie Dobbs book, following An Incomplete Revenge from the end of February. One of the things I've enjoyed in this series is the different aspects from WWI that Winspear explores. Even in 1930, the effects of the first war are far reaching.

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear, 304 pages
(book 6 of 11)
Shell-shock (now it would be PTSD) dominates this book. Fifteen years later, there are still soldiers suffering although it isn't on display where regular citizens can see it. Billy's wife is herself hospitalized for depression. Luckily, Maisie is able to pull some strings to move her because depressed females in those days do not fare so well. Maisie is enlisted with Scotland Yard to help solve the case of a madman making city-wide vague threats.

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
9 h 54 min audiobook   (book 7 of 11)
This one explores the role map-makers had in the trenches, as well as the role Americans played in enlisting. Emigrants from England still connected to the homeland. I'm liking Maisie's increased confidence, and looking after herself. She is open to romance (and seems to have a few fellas to pick from) but I'm liking the choice she is making. Much of this book traces the decline of Maurice Blanche and the effect on Maisie. The return to London of her friend Priscilla is another welcome addition to the books.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear
10 h 4 min, audiobook  (book 8 of 11)
I wish I could get more of these on audiobook, as I've just flown through these two editions. It helps that it is March Break and I've had a bunch of time.  The threat of Germany is beginning to rear its head in 1931 London, and Maisie is enlisted by the secret service to investigate some perceived national security issues at a small private college. Going undercover as a professor, she lands in the middle of a murder. Maisie spends a lot of this book organizing her friends, and with her newfound position of wealth, setting Billy up in a good situation.

After a bit of a lull in the third and fourth books, the direction of the series is fabulous. Loving all the supporting characters - Billy, Priscilla, James, Stratton, MacFarlane, and Maisie's interaction with them. Two more books (Elegy for Eddie, and Leaving Everything Most Loved) and I'll be ready for the newest release, The White Lady scheduled for 2015. That gives me the rest of this year to finish up this series. I thought I'd never get caught up, but suddenly, Maisie March appeared!

Friday, March 21, 2014

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge

 from Carl's Stainless Steel Droppings:
Friday, March 21st begins the eighth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

Is it actually Spring today? Is it actually 8 years? Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge is becoming a more spring-like sign than the weather around here. Yay for Carl and real signs of spring! I feel like I must have been getting ready for this reading challenge as in the last month I finished Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson, both which are full of folklore and mythology. Since this isn't my favored genre, two books in a month is pretty good already, but hopefully I can find another book to read to fit the season.  My potential reads still on the list from last year includes:

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and her daughter
Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

Other possibilities: 
I won Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen which should have some magic/magical realism in it - hopefully it will arrive before summer gets here. Thanks Early Reviewers at Librarything!
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton has a tag at Librarything that says Fairy Tales, so it might fit this category.
I might reread Tales of Beedle the Bard because I do remember really liking that book.

What Got Read in 2014
1. The Odesessy - Gareth Hinds (graphic novel)
2. Lost Lake - Sarah Addison Allen
3. The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
4. Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People - Douglas Coupland

Another option is to read a short story or two that is a fairy tale or fantasy or folklore and tell about it. Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson is a great example of this. Nothing overt in every story, but the overall effect was cool.

Watch any movies? I wonder if the Muppet Movie counts, because I really want to see that one!

1. Watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 1 (again)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BOOK: Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of December by George Saunders, (audiobook)
5 h, 40 min

A collection of short stories, read by the author.  Listening to Saunders read his stories was like listening to a singer-songwriter sing their own songs - he owned them. Each story had plenty of humour - I found myself laughing in the car at some of the outrageous lines. More black humour than ha-ha, as these stories plumbed the dark side of life, and people. Many seemed to involve inner dialogues with the characters as they came to a decision. Seeing inside people's brains can be a scary place to go. Also scary to go? The detention center some prisoners can choose to go to in exchange for being guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies researching into human emotion, etc, etc.

I am a fan of short stories, and these are the type I do like. Sometimes a surprising ending, characters that you can remember. Each story was so complete, I often got confused, wondering where the characters from the last chapter went? (Some of that is due to my less than stellar listening skills, which is a post for another day - why then do I listen to audiobooks?)

Here's a link to a graduation address Saunders gave to Syracuse graduates at convocation 2013. Very inspiring.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

BOOK: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, 282 pages

I was one of the millions who started following Chris Hadfield last spring when he was the commander of the International Space Station. This wonderful memoir of being an astronaut gives quite the insight into the type of person who becomes an astronaut - disciplined, logical, smart, resourceful, and confident. The constant balance between teamwork and self-confidence was almost tiring for my lazy self. (Spoiler - I'm never becoming an astronaut.) But I do enjoy reading about the science, and space, and the process involved. He missed out on a lot of family life, and has an extremely supportive wife, but he does give his family a lot of credit and thanks.

Last fall I had the opportunity to hear David Saint-Jacques, another Canadian astronaut, speak about his life. His story is somewhat similar to Hadfield's, and just as awe-inspiring.

Wringing out a water on the ISS

I show this to my physics classes when we have a few minutes left in class. To quote one student - "I would never get tired of microgravity!"

Space Oddity - re-recorded on the ISS during Commander Hadfield's mission. Between the pictures Hadfield posted on Twitter with his amazing perspective of Earth, and his son Evan's coordinating of this video, Hadfield used social media in a way never seen before.

We are very proud in Canada of our astronaut!

Last spring, just around the time of this mission, our youngest daughter's grade four classes at school put on their spring show - a black light show. There was the requisite underwater scene and song, a Stompin' Tom tribute with the Good Old Hockey Game, and  an ISS tribute, singing the song from Music Monday, ISS (Is Someone Singing, with Ed Robertson of Bare Naked Ladies). The ISS skit got the biggest applause when all the flags and especially the Canadian flag was show. I just love this song, and listen to it all the time.

Back to the book. I liked it, and reading his story reminded me of all the fun I had following along with his mission last year. I can't imagine anyone who has enjoyed their space experience as much as Hadfield. Well, maybe they all have, but no one else shared to the extent that Hadfield did. And his enthusiasm comes through just as sincerely in his book.